Property tax stirs hornets nest across J&K, Oppn calls it tax terrorism
Calling it “tax terrorism” and “jizya ”, opposition parties and Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association besides common man have asked government to withdraw the notification. J&K Pradesh Congress Committee said imposition of property tax was another blow to already economically and politically distressed people. Women protest in Srinagar against property tax
The decision of the lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha’s administration to levy property tax on the people from April 1 has stirred a hornets’ nest across Jammu and Kashmir. Calling it “tax terrorism” and “jizya ”, opposition parties and the J&K High Court Bar Association besides common people have asked the government to immediately withdraw the notification.
The J&K Pradesh Congress Committee said that imposition of property tax was another blow to the already economically and politically distressed people of the region by the bureaucratic UT regime and the Centre in the absence of an elected government.
JKPCC chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said, “The bureaucratic regime under the command of the central government is harassing the common man by issuing series of anti-people orders”. “The people of J&K are already distressed both economically and politically in view of the long spell of terrorism and the prevailing security situation coupled with the Centre’s experiments to deal with the problem as a result the normal business and other activities remain derailed to great extent. In such a situation, J&K can’t be equated with other UTs or states in the matter of taxations, especially when no facilities of the like are available here,” he added.
All such important decisions should be left to the elected government, he said. Senior CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami termed the decision as “arbitrary and undemocratic”. “The process of collecting tax and deciding the values of the tax is the sole prerogative of the elected institutions — the legislature to frame laws and the municipal councils/corporations to decide the forms and different values according to their objective realities,” he said.
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“Levying property tax in the absence of an elected government is quite unconstitutional. Even the elected municipal bodies were not consulted. The notification is ultra vires to the constitutional mandate,” he added.
National Conference provincial president Rattan Lal Gupta termed it a “Jazia” on the common man not only to impoverish them but making their lives further miserable. He demanded immediate withdrawal of the notification. “It is unjustified, arbitrary and against the norms of democracy as it directly affects the people of J&K,” he said.
Panthers Party leader and former education minister Harsh Dev Singh said, “This a return gift by the BJP to the people, who voted for it. The state is already passing through a difficult phase. We suffered due to Covid and ours is a disturbed region, which has an adverse security situation. The unemployment in J&K is the highest in the country. We are neither an agrarian economy nor an industrial one. Despite that they have chosen to impose property tax, which is highly reprehensible. They have already hit the livelihood of the people by bulldozing their shops and houses”. Apni Party senior vice-president Ghulam Hassan Mir said the issue should be left to an elected government.
J&K High Court Bar Association president MK Bhardwaj strongly condemned government notification and asked the administration to withdraw it immediately. The Bar also threatened to launch a stir among the people, if it’s not withdrawn. The Bar called it “tax terrorism” and asked the government to stop pursuing “anti-people” policies in Jammu and Kashmir.
“If the government doesn’t withdraw it on its own, we will go to each house and compel the government to take it back. We appeal to the government not to compel the people to hit the streets. People are already affected and suffering. The land holdings which were them for 70 years, were taken way while shelter of the poor people dismantled. All these instances are anti-people. We strongly condemn them. The property tax is nothing but tax terrorism,” said advocate Bhardwaj.
“People had pinned high hopes after reorganisation of the state but now there is unrest among the people in every sphere,” he said. “This is an arbitrary decision, which has caused grave resentment among the people,” he said.
The J&K administration has issued a notification ordering imposition of property tax in municipal areas of Jammu and Kashmir with tax rates being five per cent of Taxable Annual Value (TAV) for residential properties and six per cent for commercial properties. However, residential houses up to a built-up area of 1,000 square feet have been exempted from the purview of property tax while smaller assets have been taxed at lower rates.
Meanwhile, Scores of women protested against the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the central government in Srinagar on Wednesday against their policies, including the announcement of property tax, curtailment of ration at the depots and installation of smart meters in the union territory. The women, raising slogans, claimed that the lives of the poor were becoming miserable because of new orders and announcements after revocation of Article 370.
The protest, which was held at Ganpatyar area of Srinagar, created chaos prompting the police to intervene. “Do we have to submit taxes for our homes now? Was Article 370 revoked only for these policies,” said an elderly woman protester.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s order on Tuesday to impose property tax in the UT from April has not gone down well with people and leaders of political parties who wanted the decision left to the elected government. The tax rates will be 5% of taxable annual value (TAV) for residential properties and 6% for commercial properties. Earlier, the government’s eviction drive from state land had caused a lot of anger across the UT prompting the officials to slow down the drive.
The people have also expressed resentment against curtailment in ration at the ration depots and also protested time and again in the last one year against installation of smart electricity meters. Another woman protester said that the government was coming with new orders and policies day in and day out. “We are protesting against smart meters, curtailment in ration and price rise. Now they have made another announcement (of levying property tax). What they say, they do it. They announced that the properties of people will be taxed,” she said.
Another protester said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should announce these policies in his home state, not here where people are facing a lot of poverty. “We earn ₹200 a day, how will we afford these meters? Do we feed our children or pay (hike in) electricity bills? How can we afford ₹3,000-4,000 electricity bills? We are street vendors and the government does even allow street vendors. We don’t need free ration but we need the same amount of ration which we used to get earlier,” she said.